Christian Democrat Buma could be unexpected winner of Dutch vote

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CDA leader Sybrand Buma campaigns, the day before a general election, in Delft, Netherlands, March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman
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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch election has centred on the fight between the two hard right candidates, anti-Islam maverick Geert Wilders and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, but the leader of the Christian Democrats has crept to within striking distance of topping the poll.

Sybrand Buma’s Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) is all but certain to participate in the next governing coalition, regardless of who wins, and Buma even has a long-shot chance of becoming prime minister after Wednesday’s vote, given other parties’ refusal to work with Wilders.

The latest polls show the right-leaning, low-profile Buma trailing Rutte’s VVD by 4 percentage points and just 1 point behind Wilders’ PVV, on a rising trend. He could command around 20 seats in a fractured 150-seat parliament.

Since Feb. 24, the CDA has gone up in every one of the 11 polling updates in a poll of polls – the only party to do so.

Buma told Reuters all the pre-election talk had been that “this campaign would be about a rivalry between Rutte and Wilders. What’s left of that dual? We are getting stronger every day and the chance that we are the biggest on election day is very real, and no one is expecting it.”

Buma has gained ground by adopting a tough line similar to Rutte’s on immigration, adding a focus on communal values and a touch of nationalism to tap voter concerns about Dutch identity.

He has proposed introducing singing the national anthem in schools and mandatory community service, but supports remaining in the European Union and keeping the euro currency – albeit with some reluctance.

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The CDA campaign is “very much about moral issues rather than economic issues”, Buma said. Compulsory social service for youths, he said, would help them see that society is “not only what’s in it for you … but also what you give back”.   Continued…

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